episode 4

air fresheners

Who tells us what clean should smell of?
Who knows what is in the fragrances used?
Do we need to surround ourselves with yet more chemicals, especially when their necessity is questionable?

In this episode we focus on understanding chemicals, risk assessment and policy 

Pleasant smells have always been desirable – from artefacts found in Egyptian tombs to automatic sprays in public toilets today (OK, may be not those!). Fragrances used to be made entirely of natural ingredients like flowers, barks, deer musk and whale vomit (yup!). Over time more synthetic versions have been produced.

We have many types of air fresheners – sprays, plug-ins, gels, candles, plug ins, incense…if they use already regulated chemicals, like known toxic chemicals or allergens, the labels on the packaging need to disclose these. But if they are not known already, we need to wait till some harm is detected.

The entire world, including our bodies, are made of chemicals. But we don’t understand the potential impacts of all sorts of different chemicals in air, water, surfaces that we surround ourselves with – whether they are synthetic or natural. Some are useful and inevitable but the need for others are questionable.

We are not saying don’t use air fresheners – thoughtful use of products that make you happy is reasonable but perhaps pause a little before you reach for the next one. Listen to find out how we can use coffee, lemon, house plants, baking soda and, our favourite, vinegar, instead!

Thea Sletten, Principal Consultant at eftec (Economics For The Environment Consultancy), who is a specialist in chemicals policy and risk assessment, is our guest. 

*** The views we and our guests express in this podcast are our own ***

further resources

Dive into the data 

Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, 2009. The Presence Of Fragrance Allergens In Scented Consumer Products. Bilthoven: RIVM.


True Test, 2012. Patient Information: Fragrance Mix. Your TRUE TEST® indicates that you have a contact allergy to fragrance mix. Denmark: Smart Practice.